Denton: J-Rich Driven By Team Goal

By John Denton
January 2, 2011

ORLANDO – At the end of every practice, every walk-through, every game and even at times following timeouts during games, the Orlando Magic come together as one and chant the word, ``championship.’’

It’s a chant that makes Jason Richardson smile every single time he hears it, and one that he almost certainly won’t grow tired of anytime soon.

The championship chatter was the first thing that Richardson heard back on Dec. 18, the day that he was traded along with Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to Orlando for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. The fact that President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy were so open about the desires to win it all had had Richardson smiling and acting as if he’s living a dream for the past two weeks.

``The first thing that Stan said to us was about trying to win a championship. I was like, `Wow, it’s not about trying to just get to the playoffs or win a round in the playoffs. It was all about trying to win championship.’ That was so big for me, just hearing that. I’ve never been a part of something like this before. And I want do everything I can to help this team get to that level and win a championship.’’

After playing for mostly bad teams in Golden State, Charlotte and Phoenix the past 10 seasons, Richardson is finally a part of a team in a legitimate championship chase. At 21-12 and tied for the NBA’s longest winning streak at five games, the Magic seem to be making a strong push after shuffling their roster. In addition to adding the three players from Phoenix, the Magic also traded Rashard Lewis for point guard Gilbert Arenas.

The scoring averages for Turkoglu (12.9 ppg.), Richardson (11.7 ppg.) and Arenas (10.3 ppg.) are down from their career averages, but that’s a product of the Magic having seven players averaging at least 10.1 points a game.

``You can say the numbers of the new guys are down, but it’s because of the balance of our team,’’ said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy following his team’s Sunday practice in preparation for Monday’s game against Golden State at Amway Center. ``The good thing on this team is that our scoring is just predicated on guys making the right play and one person doesn’t have to carry the load. We’re using an eight-man rotation and there’s not a guy that you don’t have to guard.

A defensive coach is looking for someone you don’t have to guard or double-team off of, but we don’t really have anyone like that.’’

The fact that the Magic are facing a 13-20 Golden State team causes Richardson to think back to his days with the Warriors when he pumped in plenty of points, but rarely won many games. In his six seasons in Golden State, the Warriors cracked 40 wins just once and lost an average of 47.7 games a season.

John Denton
Richardson had seasons where he averaged 23.2 ppg. (2005-06), 21.7 ppg., (’04-05) and 18.7 ppg. (’03-04), but it went mostly unnoticed because we played for losers with the Warriors. And as soon as Golden State finally enjoyed some playoff success, upsetting top-seeded Dallas in the first round of the playoffs in 2007, he was dealt to rebuilding Charlotte.

``People remember winners,’’ Richardson said. ``People would tell me in Phoenix that I was having my best year (while averaging 19.3 ppg. earlier this season), but I was only averaging 18 points a game. People don’t remember those years when I was averaging 23 points a game (in Golden State) because we had losing teams. People only remember you when you are winning.

``The Charlotte trade hit me hard because I was there (in Golden State) when we were losing and I could have gone up to the management and said, `Trade me out of here,’ but I didn’t,’’ Richardson continued. ``I had some of the best years of my career there, averaging 22 and 23 points a game and I stuck with the franchise. We finally got to being good and then they sent me to Charlotte. Then, it was like Golden State all over with a bunch of young guys and nobody was established. There was no team concept there (in Charlotte) at all. The other two (trades) those were business moves and they sent me to two great places.’’

Naturally, Richardson could be more excited about being in Orlando where he is surrounded with all-star players such as Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Turkoglu and Arenas. He was enjoying a brilliant season in Phoenix before the trade, averaging 19.3 points with 39 and 35-point games for the Suns. In Orlando, it’s been an adjustment not being the focal point of the offense, but it’s an adjustment that he’s been more than happy to make.

``It’s an adjustment, but I’ve been through it before. When I first got to Phoenix, we had Shaq (O’Neal), Steve (Nash), Amare (Stoudemire) and Grant (Hill), so my numbers took a dip there, too,’’ said Richardson, who scored in double figures in four of his seven games with the Magic so far. ``But I’m just not a numbers guy and I just want to win games. I’ve averaged 20 points in this league before and if my numbers take a dive here in Orlando I don’t have a problem with that. As long as I’m producing on both ends of the floor, I’m fine.’’

And he’s more than fine with doing whatever it takes to help the Magic stay in the championship hunt. With a dunk championship, almost 13,000 points scored and 10 years in the league under his belt, winning big is the one thing that he’s lacking, Richardson said.

``It’s all about winning a championship now. I’m at the point in my career where I’m established and the only thing that’s missing is a championship,’’ he said. ``The individual stuff doesn’t matter and it’s just about helping us win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s why you play the game.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at